There are certain conversations that, no matter how difficult and awkward, every parent must have with their kids. Life would be so much simpler if only my 7-year-old daughter were asking me about sex or drugs. I could just quote South Park to her, in the comforting knowledge that she's never actually seen South Park: "There's a time and place for everything... it's called college."
Right now, however, she's asking about something that seemed like a joke at first but has incredibly serious implications: how Donald Trump could become our next president.
The question can come in many forms: Who is Donald Trump? Why is he so popular? What is on his head? Is it alive? For real dad, what is that?
You should answer honestly and directly:
That is Donald Trump's hair. It's weird and gross, but it is actually the least gross thing about him.
Donald Trump is a hateful, petty, pandering, lying bully. He's a racist, Islamaphobic, misogynistic liar who plays on people's fears to gain popularity. He is Lex Luthor, Biff Tannen, Emperor Palpatine and the emperor who wore no clothes all rolled into one fat-headed steaming pile of...
Then, you'll probably remember you're talking to a child.
Hit rewind and start a little slower. Also, maybe make yourself a nice cup of tea to relax.
Begin with the basics:
Donald Trump is running for president of the United States of America.
(Maybe pour a little whiskey in that tea.)
He is incredibly wealthy and famous.
(I would suggest not getting bogged down in the details of his wealth. Save "if he had just invested his inheritance in index funds, he would be even richer" for your Trump-apologist uncle. Also, probably skip that he had his own TV show, because that will lead to a whole 'nuther conversation about crappy "reality" shows.)
Get into some of the nitty gritty... but be cool, bro:
Donald Trump is a bully. If someone disagrees with him, he calls them idiots.
(You will probably have to defend Donald Trump's parents at this point.)
I'm sure they taught him not to name-call, but some children just don't listen. No, it's not very nice.
But that's just the beginning. Donald Trump says mean things about large groups of people based on their physical characteristics, religious beliefs and where they were born.
(Buckle up. This is where things get tricky. Depending on how old your child is, it is probably best to use analogies.)
It's like if someone said, "everyone with blue eyes is a booger-eater," would you believe them? Haha! Yeah, I know it's pretty nasty. No, you don't have to tell me which kids in your class eats boogers. Let's move on. Point is, of course you wouldn't. How about if someone told you that kids who thought Star Wars was cooler than The Avengers shouldn't be allowed in your school? I know. I like Jonah D., too. But he likes Star Wars, so we can't trust him. Okay, okay, we can trust him! Of course, he should be allowed in your school.
People should be able to like and believe what they want. But Donald Trump doesn't think so. He thinks that just because there are a few crazy Star Wars fans, you can't trust any of the millions and billions of people who think Wookies are awesome. No, you can't see the new movie until we watch the older ones, especially Episodes 4-6. Because the first three aren't that good. I don't care what Jonah D. says!
(And take another sip of that whiskey-infused tea. You just started another difficult conversation, this one about how can you love Star Wars but hate Episodes 1-3. Like Han, I have a bad feeling about this.)
If your child is older, you think she can handle it and/or she asks lots follow up questions, you may want/be forced to get more specific. Talk about different religions and ethnicities with your children, if you haven't already.
Feel free to use cliches. They're cliches for a reason:
It's not what's on the outside that matters, but what is on the inside that counts. Don't judge a book by its cover. We're all sleeping underneath that same big sky (somewhere out there)!
You may have to go further, to why people are susceptible to Trump's lies and distortions:
When someone from your own religion or who looks like you does something really bad, it's easy to condemn them individually and say, "yeah, but he was crazy." When the horrible act is done by someone who looks different or believes different things, it is easy (and wrong) to blame the group.
That is what Donald Trump does. He makes some people feel safer by vilifying the "others," saying he will keep those others away. But those others are our neighbors and friends or, at least, they can be. We shouldn't push them further away, like Donald Trump suggests, but hold them closer.
Donald Trump preaches hate and fear. He has given in to the power of the Dark Side. But, kid, we're Jedis! We are not the droids he's looking for. Let's go watch whatever Star Wars you want. My new hope is that we never have to talk about how Donald Trump actually became the president.